Building Partnerships


Building and sustaining impactful partnerships is critical to students’ learning outside the classroom.

Ethical partnerships deliberately, “safeguard learners’ interests, build trust and mutual respect, regulate themselves, and make informed decisions that benefit everyone involved” (Bloom et al., 2016, pg. 118).

This resource includes information on:

  • Ethical partnerships
  • Practical steps for building partnerships
  • The 5 Rs of quality partnership development

Student learning experiences are facilitated in partnerships between the student, the higher education institution, and the organization where the experience will take place, including:

  • Industry
  • Businesses
  • Healthcare facilities
  • Educational institutions
  • Government organizations
  • Professional organizations
  • Non-profit organizations

According to the Conference Board of Canada (2016) partnerships between post-secondary institutions and business/community organizations are most effective when they mutually benefit both parties.


The following eight steps are recommended as a starting point to building ethical partnerships with organizations external to the University.


(Stewart, 2013)

Building partnerships is an ongoing process. It is not uncommon to have to reach out to numerous prospective partners in order to find an appropriate fit. Importantly, the partnership development process must be considered as a long-term and ongoing discussion, recognizing that the needs of all parties are constantly evolving over time (Soikie, 2018).

What if the partner says no?

  • Probe.
  • Offer solutions.
  • Ask for referral to someone else, or refer them to someone else.
  • Continue to nurture the relationship. You never know what opportunities may exist in the future (Soikie, 2018).

There are a number of factors to consider when developing high quality partnerships. Please join Professor David Roberts and Chioma Ekpo in the videos below as they describe examples of experiential learning opportunities on campus and how to develop strong partnerships.

Professor David Roberts, Teaching Stream, Urban Studies Program, Faculty of Arts and Science

Chioma Ekpo, Assistant Director, Engineering Career Centre, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering

5 Quality Criteria to Consider

Consistent with the definition of ethical partnerships, the following five quality criteria should be considered in the development and maintenance of quality partnerships.

  • Ethical partnerships are mutually beneficial.
  • There are 8 steps for partnership development.
  • Building partnerships should be considered as a long-term process.
  • The 5 Rs of quality partnerships include relevance, respect, reciprocity, regulation, and recognition.


Bloom, M., MacLaine, C., Muzyka, D. F., & Stuckey, J. (2016). Partnering for performance: Enhancing partnerships between post‑secondary education and business. Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada.

Butin, D. (2010). Service-learning in theory and practice: The future of community engagement in higher education. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Seifer, S. (2002). From placement site to partnership: the promise of servicelearning. Journal of Nursing Education, 41(10), 431-432.

Soikie, S. (2018). Relationship building for integrated learning. Work-integrated learning Symposium, University of Toronto Scarborough. Toronto, ON, November 2.

Stewart, J. (2013). Create a good partnership in eight steps. Michigan State University Extension. Retrieved online:


Contact the author:

Dr. Ashley Stirling
University of Toronto


A Powerpoint version of the content provided in each resource section is available for individuals wishing to use this material for local professional development programming.

The resource is licensed for re-use under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License” using the following citation:

Stirling, A. (2019). Building Partnerships. Presented at the Experiential Learning Hub. Retrieved from